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In Bars & Clubs Commentary

You never know who's showing up and it's that very informality that makes Linneman's such a wonder.

Linneman's has long been committed to live music


"Bar Month" at OnMilwaukee.com – brought to you by Hornitos, OR-G, Party Armor, Red Stag, Absolut, Fireball and Malibu – is back for another round! The whole month of February, we're serving up intoxicatingly fun articles on bars and clubs – including guides, the latest trends, bar reviews and more. Grab a designated driver and dive in!

I think the first time I played live music in a bar in Milwaukee was about 35 years ago. I stood onstage hoping the sweat dripping from my face wouldn't cause a short circuit in my solid wood body Ibanez electric guitar.

A lot of the places I played are now closed, although I hope it's not a causal thing. Places like the Stag, Shepard's, a basement place on Wells Street, and the famed DKC's. All gone.

Milwaukee has never had enough live music places and many of those it does have need to stage cover bands with big followings. The places that have commitment to letting music do the talking are few and far between, led perhaps by Peter Jest and Shank Hall, where you get local and national acts.

But another place with a decades long commitment to live music is Linneman's Riverwest Inn on Locust Street.

Jim Linneman bought the building on the corner in 1992. The first stage was at the end of the bar. Anyone over 6 feet 3 had to stoop down or sit. Almost 10 years ago he took a troubled back room (uneven pool table, horrible couches and chairs, more smoke than your average chimney) and built a new stage which has allowed for a much bigger seating area and a good stage where you can stand up straight.

I've seen lots and lots of good music in that place, especially some unexpected moments that have stayed with me for a long time.

I remember one night when John Sieger was on stage with some girl singer and Sam Llanas from the BoDeans. Bill Dwyer, the best guitarist I've ever personally seen got up and played with this informal group.

Dwyer used to be a cigarette-smoking, hard drinking hell raiser. Now he's happily married, living the healthy life in Montana, riding bikes and hiking and skiing. How that happens to a great guitar player baffles me, but there it is. Thank God he still makes music. It was a magical night of sound.

There were lots of musicians who cut their teeth at Linneman's over the years and there are lots of musicians who say they would never have gotten started if it hadn't been for his bar.

There is no mistake what Linneman's is about. This is a place to hear music, not chat up your neighbor or talk about work or watch football on television. This is a music bar.

"Music at Linneman's is the prime focus, the main event," Linneman said. "It's what people come to see. Music is the one thing that can not only massage the soul but it can set it free."

Linneman and his lovely partner, Marty, have served up music and cocktails for nearly 20 years now. She serves the drinks, he walks around like he doesn't have a clue what he's doing. But he does.

"What we do is focused on singer/songwriters," Linneman said. "I like cover songs, but there needs to be originality."

Nineteen years ago he opened with a Wednesday night acoustic jam, a tradition that continues to this day. People stop by open their cases and do a song or two or three.

You never know who's showing up and it's that very informality that makes it such a wonder.

Milwaukee ought to have more bars like Linneman's. It would benefit both musicians and the listening public and that's a win-win for everyone.


Talkbacks

sandstorm | Feb. 7, 2012 at 11:20 a.m. (report)

Jim and Marty are great people and Linnemans really is one of the more underrated live music clubs in the city. and, yeah, that weekly Mosely's gig was pretty cool.

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jfredmuggs | Feb. 6, 2012 at 2:00 p.m. (report)

The Moseley's in the 90s at Linneman's every Thursday. Name anything as consistently good, I dare you! Perfect power pop played with precision and panache!

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danielnathan | Feb. 6, 2012 at 1:28 p.m. (report)

for once I agree with Begel

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